Before the draft and before free agency, the Houston Texans have to take care of something just as important.
They have to re-sign Glover Quin.
Quin isn't the only free-agent-to-be on the Texans roster, but with apologies to Connor Barwin, he is the most important.
Quin helped anchor the Texans secondary in a season where there were too many struggles with the pass defense down the stretch.
He provides excellent run and coverage support, ranking fourth on the team in stops according to Pro Football Focus. Stops are tackles resulting in offensive failure. He was also 11th in the NFL among all safeties in that category.
Quin was ninth in the league in quarterback hurries as a blitzer. He was second in the league in passes defensed.
In other words, he pretty much does it all.
At just 27 years old, Quin still has a few productive years left. Safeties who begin their career at the position tend to drop off suddenly around age 30. This is bad news for the Texans, as their other safety, Danieal Manning, turns 31 in August.
With age showing at the position, the Texans can't afford to lose Quin. The larger question is if they can afford to keep him.
The final salary cap total for 2013 is in constant flux, and the most recent numbers put forth by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk put the total close to $123 million.
The Texans have between $13 and $15 million in cap space depending on who is counting and what numbers are being used. John Clayton had them at $12.9 million before the cap went up by $2 million, but Sports Trac has its number closer to $10 million. No matter how you splice the numbers, the Texans are going to have a tight cap to work with.
Simply franchising Quin would cost the Texans $6.8 million. The team will need roughly $6 million to sign its draft class, so a simple franchising of Quin is only even possible under the more generous assessments of the Texans' cap health.
Moreover, franchising Quin all but eliminates the possibility to re-sign Barwin and precludes any other additions to the roster.
The problem is that if they try and negotiate with Quin, the deal could get expensive quickly. Safety is a premium position and plenty of deals out there are pricey.
Just last summer Michael Griffin re-upped with the Tennessee Titans for five years and $35 million. That's an average payout of $7 million, though it's cheaper than the franchise mark in the first two years of the deal.
It's going to be difficult to get Quin in the door without seriously back-loading the guaranteed money in a new deal. Doing so could cause cap issues down the road, however.
If the Texans want to three-peat as division champs, they are going to need Quin to do it.
It's just a question of how they can afford him and how many sacrifices they have to make to bring him back.